Ireland’s Ray O’Farrell will lead Dell’s new $1bn IoT division

13 Oct 2017

Dell’s chief of its new IoT division, Ray O’Farrell. Image: Web Summit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This week, Ireland’s Ray O’Farrell was named the head of Dell’s new $1bn IoT division as the US military made plans to develop battlefield IoT.

Privacy for internet of things (IoT) devices was once again a hot-button issue, this time seeing Google axe a feature of its Home Mini smart assistant that enabled it to record audio continuously in the home.

A malfunction meant the sensor on top of the device could register touches almost constantly, rather than when the user touches it deliberately. Due to the bug, users could have potentially seen a situation where all their conversations were recorded and sent to create a searchable bank of data, leading to outrage from privacy advocates.

Elsewhere, there was some funding success for Dublin-start-up FoodMarble, which raised £1.3m to develop what it claims is the world’s first personal digestive tracker.

Aire is a pocket-sized device that helps people who struggle with digestive problems to figure out which foods are the problem.

Irish man to lead Dell’s $1bn IoT division

Another Irish success story is underway Stateside with news that VMware CTO Ray O’Farrell is to lead Dell’s new IoT division, which plans to spend $1bn on R&D over the next three years.

The purpose of the division, CEO Michael Dell said, is to take all of its various businesses working within IoT and unify them in a way that will bring benefits to its customers.

The plan is to also bolster IoT devices’ abilities to handle information offline, with Dell giving the example of an autonomous car.

“If a deer jumps in front of your self-driving car, if you have to send that info back to a cloud, you might as well plan on venison for dinner,” he said, echoing the sentiment of O’Farrell who also called for localised computing with IoT devices.

IoT network deployed across expanse of Russia

Russian telecoms operator ER Telecom has announced it is to work with low-power wide-area (LPWA) network provider Actility to undertake the ambitious task of rolling out IoT across the massive expanse of Russia.

The network will be based on LoRaWAN technology – a rival standard to narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) – which will start with the country’s greatest wealth producers: the oil and gas and mining industries.

In mining, LoRaWAN can be used to monitor vehicles and machinery, and trigger pre-emptive maintenance to prevent faults and downtime, or track workers to ensure their safety during blasting operations.

“By our estimates, based on the forecasts of the leading international analytical agencies, the volume of the IoT market in Russia will reach almost 800bn roubles (€11.7bn) by the year 2022,” said Andrey Kuzyaev, president of ER Telecom.

“Taking into account all the opportunities that digital economy provides, we have decided to extend our business and enter adjoining markets and launch an IoT network with the federal coverage in 60 cities with our partner Actility.”

Tokyo voted the safest smart city in the world

In our rush to make our cities smarter, companies and governments can overlook crucial safety issues and security measures to prevent major disasters such as cyberattacks or massive invasions of privacy.

Now, the Economist Intelligence Unit (via Quartz) has compiled a ranking of what it deems to be the safest smart cities in the world, called the Safe Cities Index.

Factors taken into account included a city’s digital security, infrastructure safety and health security.

It might not come as a surprise to find that Tokyo has been ranked the best city in the world in this regard, followed by Singapore and Chicago. Amsterdam was the only European city to make the top 10, with the rest coming from Hong Kong, Canada and the US.

In the report, John Rossant, chair of the Paris-based New Cities Foundation, said: “More and more cities are moving towards open digital platforms.

“That is good, but it leaves you open to cyberattacks, and these can be serious because you’re talking about water supply, transport and electricity grids.”

US military makes $25m available for battlefield IoT

Our homes, cities and cars may be the target of much of the tech industry’s IoT technology, but the US military now hopes to encourage the same amount of development on the battlefield, too.

According to the Chicago Tribune, $25m is being put forward by the US Army Research Lab with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to lead six schools and a research centre, to give the military a technological competitive advantage.

As most of this technology already exists to some degree in the military, the focus of the research will be on making devices more intelligent and capable of working seamlessly with one another.

“Sensors, cameras, weapons, vehicles, collected data and algorithms are all over the place – in armour, in soldiers’ wearables, on the ground and in the sky,” said Tarek Abdelzaher, professor at the Illinois university.

“We want to configure them, to bring them together to create one of millions of possible tools that can best accomplish the right mission.”

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Dell’s chief of its new IoT division, Ray O’Farrell. Image: Web Summit/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Updated, 5.24pm, 13 October 2017: This article was updated to remove a reference to Australia’s NB-IoT network.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic